Terrapin, tortoise, tortuga…and ninjas? They may go by many names, but our ongoing fascination with the hard-shelled reptiles that once walked with the dinosaurs is as unique as it is ancient. Our guest on this cheloniologically pleasing episode of the Popzara Podcast is journalist Professor Peter Laufer, whose extensive work documenting conservation, hunger and animal rights all come together nicely in his latest book: Dreaming in Turtle: A Journey Through the Passion, Profit, and Peril of Our Most Coveted Prehistoric Creatures, available now from St. Martin’s Press.
It’s a journey in which Peter travels the globe to better understand humans’ eternal fascination with these mysterious creatures, one spanning labs, wildlife preserves, questionable meat markets and even prisons. Our own amateur testudinologist Nathan Evans talks with Peter about the irony in which such a revered animal can be considered erogenous in one moment and delicious the next, from pet to ground-up aphrodisiac just as quickly. It’s a tale of how an unfortunate mix of curiosity and consumerism have put one of nature’s most resilient creatures on the brink of extinction.
Also discussed are how sustained conservation efforts are needed to preserve turtles native freshwater, seawater and land environments, ways public outrage has helped change ageless cultural customs, how their natural neoteny (i.e. cuteness) may be turtles secret weapon in a world of ugly reptiles, and even the unintentional consequences – and dangers – of anthropomorphizing terrapin into weapon-wielding teenagers. Everyone has a turtle story (it’s true!), and we can’t forget Peter’s own adventures with Fred, the worm-munching, otherwise indifferent box turtle.